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Don’t Call It a Comeback

We love a good comeback story, don't we? There's something about seeing someone having to face the lows of the plot, only to emerge from the ashes swinging and winning! It's the action flick where the bad guys are overtaking the hero, and with one unbelievable, swift move, the villain is now at the mercy of our champion. Or, it's the novel where the main character has lost everything she holds near and dear to her. She's on the brink of giving up and throwing in life's towel. Then incredibly, she takes a new step that lands her in the right direction, restoring hope and repaving her path forward.

Really, who doesn't love a turnaround? It's what dreams cling to and where faith grows. We experience reversals through the narratives of scripts and best-sellers. We encounter them in the lives of our loved ones and the very days we live out. We watch some of our favorite brands weather the ebbs and flow of turbulence only to see them rise from a near fall. They are down for the count, nearing the referee's arrival to 10, when all of a sudden, they're back up. Yes, sweet victory, their staying power has marveled and rocked their industry and even the world.

Every turnaround begins with a step.

No one, or no organization for that matter, experiences a turn without making intentional, thoughtful, and wise moves. Comebacks aren't happenstance. They are premeditated and deliberate. A "Mother of Reinvention" that was calculating, resulting in a head-spinning, monstrous rebrand and rebirth came from the legendary LEGO!

This brand began tickling our imaginations in 1932, and for over six decades, LEGO only knew growth. Then enters 2003—the company started to experience a yearly decline in sales until it found itself swimming in $800 million of debt. LEGO decided to diversify to save the brand, only to sink further into the abyss. Jewelry for girls, clothes, and a theme park nearly took LEGO out for good. However, the brand's CEO, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, refused to go down without a fight.

With his leadership, Knudstorp established a renewed organizational culture that hinged on the Danish saying, "We're engineers. We know what we're good at. Let's stick to our knitting." In other words, the presses were stopped on the ventures that were dragging the brand down versus building and strengthening its bricks, and Knudstorp halted all operations LEGO lacked expertise.

LEGO took the bold and courageous move of cutting the fat and slimming the brand. Unlike many other organizations, the company took a hard look at itself and became ok with the honest answer uncovered. The brickmaker became comfortable within its skin and came to terms with who it is—bricks.

Countless companies can't brave the truth and find themselves stuck and unable to break away from what doesn't define them but defiles the brand instead. They can't let go, blinded to the destruction hanging on continues to bring. So daring, even after a consulting firm told LEGO to do more, the brand opted for less. Instead, it honed in on what it did best and put all its energies into building that out, modernizing it for today's generation, and increasing its sentiment by inserting itself into the hearts of its fans.

Becoming great again wasn't accidental. After establishing its laser focus, LEGO went to work in devoting itself to understanding its customers and how they relate to the brand. The company is known for conducting one of the most extensive ethnographic studies of children in the world. Working with the Global Insight Group, LEGO engages in what is called "camping with consumers." The team travels globally, talking to kids and their families. They participate in their daily lives by watching how children play alone versus with friends. They also study sibling interactions and examine why some toys prevail at remaining the enduring favorite while others find their home at the bottom of the toy box.

This ability to morph into the consumer with a well-defined brand brought LEGO back to the top of the charts. The hot toy list became saturated with the company's offerings. Classic LEGO lines like City and Space created a sense of nostalgia for the adults who could remember when. The ninja-themed NINJAGO®, along with other good guys vs. bad guys themes, drew in the boys. Then in 2011, the brand memorized the girls with LEGO® Friends. All wins stemmed from LEGO's willingness to go back to the drawing board and allow the truth behind its existence to consume its identity.

Almost a century later, LEGO remains to be the brand fueling our imaginations and creativity through the dynamic whims of science. Don't call it a comeback. Instead, it's an intentional will to survive.

Reinventions are gusty. It's an unafraid turn, despite not knowing what lies ahead.

So what are you waiting for? Turnaround.


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